If you got online yesterday then you probably heard the big news. There’s a new Thor about to debut over at Marvel, and she doesn’t want to be called She-Thor. Yep, that’s right! One of Marvel Comics’ longest-running — and most masculine — titles is going to be headlined by a woman! I assume you’re not new to these parts of CBR, so you probably have already assumed that I’m totally on board with this.
No twists here — I am 100% on board with this.
Looking at the big picture, there are nearly zero circumstances that would lead me to be violently opposed to the creation of a new female-lead comic book. The Big Two need to even out the female to male ratio so badly that I would probably be cool with everything up until the debut of a heroine called “Brokeback Girl” with a creative team filled with Men’s Rights Activists. So yeah, a new Thor written by homerun champ Jason Aaron with art by rising star Russell Dauterman? Yeah, I’m cool with that.
That’s not to say that this “Thor” relaunch isn’t without, well, not problems exactly, but things worth discussing. Honestly, I just wanted to call this a slam-dunk and move on, but there were corners of the Internet where people were up in arms. I saw a few quibbles and nitpicks with a side of cynicism out there, and those reactions got me really thinking about this relaunch — and why I personally don’t feel the need to nitpick representation that has many more pluses than minuses.
First, I saw a number of people saying that this announcement felt like pandering, and there were the usual cries about the “PC Police.” A few people felt that Marvel making the announcement on a daytime talk show like “The View” was especially pander-y, forgetting the fact that “The View’s” a stalwart daytime presence watched by a million-to-multiple-millions of people every day. I know “The View” isn’t required viewing for the traditional comic book demographic, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be a useful platform. Comics are everywhere. The last Thor movie made over $200 million domestically. These characters don’t just belong to comic book fans that get their news solely from retweets (like myself). They belong to the mainstream public now, and I actually think it’s kind of cool that a comic book got talked about on television. Fans that want people to experience the source material before checking out the summer blockbuster adaptations should be jumping for joy that Whoopi Goldberg discussed a Marvel Comic, thus maybe reminding hundreds of thousands of people that Marvel still makes comics in addition to movies.
I think the backlash might also stem from a false assumption or stereotype about “The View’s” audience. Maybe male geeks have finally come around to the idea that they have female equivalents that, you know, wear glasses and We Love Fine tees. Maybe there’s a thought that there’s no way women who watch “The View” would ever read comics? Maybe, if those thoughts are happening, those thoughts are really narrow-minded? My sister is a 42-year-old mother of two that has been reading hard crime novels since she was fresh out of high school and popular vampire fiction since she had her second kid. She will see “The Expendables 3” and “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay” in theaters this year. She also loves Thor — at least the Thor movies and his whole aesthetic — but has never read a comic book and definitely doesn’t visit (great) sites like The Mary Sue. Marvel could announce Aaron and Dauterman’s “Thor” on feminist geek sites, sure, but they wouldn’t be grabbing my sister’s attention. There’s a whole demographic of women out there that love action-oriented fantasy literature, and Marvel’s smart to advertise on “The View” — a show that audience is more likely to watch. I think the problem some fans have isn’t because Marvel is pandering, but it’s because Marvel isn’t pandering to them.
That should be evident in the press release Marvel put on their website yesterday, too. Did y’all catch this bit?
“THOR is the latest in the ever-growing and long list of female-centric titles that continues to invite new readers into the Marvel Universe. THOR will be the 8th title to feature a lead female protagonist and aims to speak directly to an audience that long was not the target for super hero comic books in America: women and girls.”
Doesn’t get much more clear than that, does it? Seriously, that last sentence is like a hammer drop to all the haters who have constantly said that women can’t flex their spending muscles at the box office or in the TV ratings or at comic shops. It’s phrased in press release prose, sure, but it’s also kinda gleefully defiant towards naysayers and firmly on the right side of history. I love that paragraph.
Other naysayers were nitpicking that this new Thor shouldn’t be Thor because Thor is a character’s name. So, sure? There’s a point there, yeah, but that line of logic makes me wonder how a proto-Twitter would have reacted twenty-five-ish years ago when Eric Masterson picked up Mjolnir and became Thor. A precedent has been set that the name goes along with the hammer — heck, it’s written on the hammer. “Whosoever holds this hammer, if he be worthy, shall possess the power of Thor.” The logic gets kinda muddled and circular when you realize that, at times, Thor has not been worthy of lifting the hammer that grants him powers that Mjolnir’s inscription describes as his own powers. To me, that inscription implies that Thor is both Thor’s name and his title. Sure he’s named Thor, but he has to be worthy to be Thor. Everyone complaining about the new Thor’s name, why don’t you turn your “that makes no sense” nitpicks on a character that really deserves it like Black Bolt — or should I call him by his real name Blackagar Boltagon? That’s comics!
I saw a couple of other gripes about the obvious expiration date on this big change, and how that undermines the character’s worth. A few people were legit concerned that editor Wil Moss called this Thor the Thor and not a “temporary female substitute.” How could she not be a temporary substitute if He-Thor’s gonna come back eventually? After decades of reading these things, I’ve come to accept that words like “temporary” have a very different meaning in comics. Temporary still means temporary, it’s just used to differentiate between two different lengths of temporary. There’s the type of temporary used for one storyarc and then done with — like Punisher’s Captain America costume or Spider-Man’s “Other” powers — and the type of temporary implied when Moss says this Thor is not temporary. This Thor is permanent in no doubt the same way that Bucky’s Captain America and Doc Ock’s Superior Spider-Man were permanent. Both had lengthy stints in the headlining role and left a sizeable footprint on the comic book landscape; both of those runs will be remembered for a very, very long time, even if they’re both over now.
And I have to scratch my head for people basing all their complaints because they don’t want to go months without reading about Thor Odinson. Going without your favorite solo hero could be an unbearable prospect, I really don’t know because my main jam’s the X-Men. I learned to spread my undying love to multiple characters. I’ve gone years without seeing Boom Boom in a regular comic and I’m doing okay. I’m immune to this type of freak out. I’m sorry for your loss? Maybe talk to the big Human Torch, Spider-Man, and Captain America fans you know about how they dealt with those changes and hear what they learned about their reaction in hindsight? Cool?
I think this new Thor is a good thing. Yeah, it is annoying that a female hero has to be introduced in a way that defines her and ties her to a male character. Look how much we’ve grown, though! Now people are mad that this new Thor has to be spun out of a male character when for decades that was pretty much all Marvel had when it came to female ongoings! I’m not mad about Thor being compared to Thor because Marvel’s giving us an incredibly diverse selection of female leads every month. There are heroines with code-names derived from male heroes (“Captain Marvel” and “She-Hulk”) as well as heroines that stand on their own (“Elektra,” “Storm,” “Black Widow”) and even one derived from a female hero (“Ms. Marvel”). There’s no one prominent way for a female hero to find solo success, and that’s great.
As far as I’m concerned, the new Thor isn’t a step back or sideways or a stomped foot on a male hero’s legacy; she represents yet another way Marvel’s delivering on their promise to make gender equality on the comic stands a priority. Now, let’s concentrate on making equality a priority behind the scenes.
Brett White is a comedian living in New York City. He co-hosts the podcast Matt & Brett Love Comics and is a writer for the comedy podcast Left Handed Radio. His opinions can be consumed in bite-sized morsels on Twitter (@brettwhite).